Getting professionally qualified in accountancy is a significant achievement. It takes a huge amount of personal investment and commitment. The trouble is that like any qualification it really is just the start.
Over the years I worked with some great people. What I noticed is that there were often people who were very good at what they did but failed to realise their potential. Others seemed to move forward almost effortlessly.
Yet the reality is that it was never effortless for those who wanted to get on in their career. They were busy building their skills, both hard and soft skills and the other qualities needed to succeed.
So if you want to reach a senior level in accountancy what skills do you need?
Top of my list would be the ability to work well with a whole range of different people. It goes without saying that you need to work well with your team. Yet this is not enough. You need to learn to work with people from different backgrounds, who think differently from you and have different priorities.
Next would be the ability to influence without destroying relationships. It is a really fine balance and not always easy to master. You will have to deliver difficult messages and get people to face up to harsh realities at times while maintaining strong relationships.
The ability to present and communicate your ideas is vital. Most people think that accounting is complicated. Some have a mindset that they are no good at numbers. The challenge is to communicate and present your ideas and information in a simple way.
It might be one that springs to everyone’s mind but being a good listener is important. It is really easy to jump to conclusions and go off on a tangent because you have not really listened and understood an issue.
Being personally productive is the next thing on my list of skills. What most leaders in accountancy quickly realise is that the demands on them exceeds the time available. What this means is that you have to invest your time wisely. You have to focus on what you should be doing. It means that you have to be willing to delegate.
You have to learn to play the game. All organisations have politics. You need to learn to pay the game and deal with the politics. Sometimes this will mean taking a little longer to get where you want to get to.
You have to be able to make the tough calls. Accountants in many ways take on the role of being the corporate conscience. They play and important role in corporate governance and ensuring the reputation of the organisation is protected.
You have to develop your skills to become ‘T’ shaped. By this I mean being capable of contributing effectively beyond your own area of technical expertise while still retaining excellence in your specialism.
The Bottom Line: In reality you will always be developing your skills and be open to doing so if you want to operate at a senior level in Accountancy.
Duncan Brodie is a former Finance Director and helps accountants achieve more career success. His free report The 7 Biggest Barriers To A Successful Career In Accountancy is available here.
Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.